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    Mad Cow: An Epidemic in Waiting?

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    A study published in the June issue of The Lancet has a possibly scary result for all of us who eat beef. Bottom line, the study indicates that it may take 50 years or more for “Mad Cow” like diseases to show up. That means there could be a time bomb of a Mad Cow epidemic slowly ticking away.

    The study, looked at the incubation period for a disease called Kuru in patients from Papua New Guinea. Kuru is a human type of the condition that comes from eating beef infected with Mad Cow, One gets it from ? you guessed it ? eating humans.

    The only current significant occurrence of kuru is in Papua New Guinea because eating folk was a practice there decades ago until banned. Yet it is only now that kuru is appearing in some former connoisseurs of human flesh. By looking at birth dates and when eating your neighbors was banned, researchers could get a pretty good idea of how long the disease incubated before it appeared.

    The estimated incubation periods ranged from about 35 years to 56 years and may even be longer in some cases.

    Mad cow, like kuru, is caused by “prions” which are brain proteins that are not folded right. The disease results in brain degeneration, has no cure, and is fatal. So far Mad Cow has been confirmed in several countries, including the US. The most cases by far have beeen in the UK, with over 150 cases. One gets the disease by eating infected beef, particularly brains and bone. Beef become infected by eating ? yep ? infected beef. The issue arises because a current practice of industrial cattle raising allows ground up dead beef is used in the feed beef. A practice being banned in many countries.

    The prions cannot be cooked or filtered out of infected beef. The safest way to avoid Mad Cow is not to eat beef, but if you do eat only grass fed, preferably organically raised beef.

    Source:
    The Lancet

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